Ryden himself reminds us of what Picasso once said regarding his childhood in an interview: “all children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist when you grow up”. This could be understood as meaning that the problem is how to face adulthood, the adults, and the regime they impose. Little boy blue represents an the example of what may result from the encounter with powerful and deadly adult symbology (the swastika and the nazi decorations).
According to Ryden, childhood can be positively associated with the power to be amazed, with the endless discoveries deriving from hovering and resting eyes, becoming more and more opaque with age. Art, therefore, would only be necessary to help make a clean sweep, to meet again and identify. Our child lies forgotten under a heap of coloured cloth and trinkets, symbolising our habits and duties. At times he laughs, cries, or screams. He does not want to be alone. But we move too fast and do not pay attention, we are not aware. The implicit invitation of an artist like Ryden, is to have the courage to hold one’s own naked child. Hold him close to our chest. Body to body. Feel his warmth. Look at the world through his eyes. Accept whatever image he may present us with without looking away through an inextricable exchange of glances.
Yet, our society prefers “child-worship”, the branch of childhood sacredness I mentioned above, which incorporates both the need to represent infinitely cheerful and appealing illusionary worlds relieved of their sense of responsibility and to persuade the spectator to delve into them, but not without a secondary aim (just think of the glittering childishness of the aesthetics of certain advertising campaigns).
By the term social infantilism we mean the progressive feeble-mindedness presented by the media, politic’s partner in crime, through the administration of an endlessly chewed up and depressingly dull bolus.
But childhood can also be seen (and its imagery used) as a territory for resistance from which one can declare one’s own opposition to an always more insipid and barbarous “adult world”. A few social scientists have used this opposing vision to describe the aesthetics of the Kawaii. “The Kawaii is a style, an aesthetics, a youth trend. But also a way of thinking, of being, of talking, of acting […] the term has a very particular meaning which is hard to translate into Italian. It could be translated as “cuuute!!!!”. Kawai is all that ends in a diminutive “y”, that is childish, a-sexual, sweet, defenceless, to be cuddled” (Alessandro Gomarasca). “The use of Kawaii, which in no way expresses or distinguishes gender […], originally constituted a sort of underground teen manifesto and deliberately tended towards reversing the role of adults being mature and children immature imposed by culture. The aim was to become sexually attractive even by using childish ways” (Miyadai). During the 1990s Kawaii also spread throughout the Western world. “[…] since the position of an adult was becoming more and more undesirable […] many tried to go back to the enduring existence of childhood by adopting a child’s perspective, or better, what an adult believed a child’s perspective was, in an attempt to return to and become part of that exclusive and celestial realm of immediacy […]”(Andew Calcutt)
One way of protesting against the culture of our forefathers, the sever system of norms we are subjected to, and to crushing pressure is suicide (it is worth remembering that it is a well accepted escape route in Japanese culture). In Japan, 1977 is remembered as the year of youth, and particularly child, suicide attempts. Seven hundred and eighty four youngsters, thirteen of which still at elementary school, committed suicide as a reaction to a very tight school system aimed to create hyper-productive workers which in future were to contribute to the economic build up of the country. Education by Trevor Brown perfectly represents this condition. A young girl hangs in a in classroom among endless rows of deserted and empty desks, empty and deserted like her eyes from which pens and a pencil, portraying a very Kawaii animal-shaped pink rubber on its end, stand out.